Artificial intelligence (AI) has officially entered the higher education realm, both hypothetically and in early practice. According to the report Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector, AI will grow at a compound annual rate of 47.7 percent from 2018 to 2022. Several technological and educational powerhouses will contribute to that growth as they commit substantial resources and personnel to develop digital platforms that use AI.
With all this buzz, there’s understandably a good deal of confusion (and fear) around what AI is and what impact it might have on higher education. Defined as the development of computer systems that use reasoning, logic, and other human traits to perform tasks independently, AI offers ways for organizations to streamline processes and workflows through automation.
Machine learning, a subset of AI, enables computer systems to analyze and learn from vast datasets to complete complex processes, according to ZDNet. These systems are built on neural networks—dense clusters of algorithmic pathways that transmit, interpret, and manipulate data. This technology forms the virtual minds that power self-driving cars, facial recognition software, and predictive analysis models designed to anticipate changes in consumer behavior.
According to Enrollment Management Report, AI has the potential to bring significant change to colleges and universities of all types and sizes. When harnessed to bolster student outcomes, AI gives higher education institutions the ability to anticipate enrollment trends, optimize recruitment efforts, and elevate academic performance. Based on findings in the report, AI may influence higher education in the following ways:
Domestic and international student recruiting practices will change.
College recruiting teams will be able to better focus their efforts by creating algorithms that can predict the applicants most likely to be accepted and enroll, and the states and countries from which they will originate. These algorithms could also determine the enrolled students who are most likely to progress, graduate, and become engaged alumni.
The college admissions process will become faster and more personalized.
By automating many administrative activities during the admissions process, including visa processes, student housing selection, and course registration, colleges and universities will be able to provide customizable experiences for students.
Student retention efforts will be more proactive than reactive.
By identifying early warning signs, red flags, and students who are most likely to struggle academically, student success personnel will be able to create retention plans that anticipate, rather than react to, students’ difficulties.
Admissions teams will have assistance addressing “summer melt.”
By providing personalized and frequent text messaging and communication, AI can identify accepted applicants who paid a deposit in May but may not enroll in September. This identification allows admissions staff to create intervention strategies to increase their autumn enrollment numbers.
The college’s bottom line and reputational value will improve.
By identifying and targeting applicants and students who are the best fit for the school and then personalizing all experiences across the student lifecycle, schools will be able to operate more efficiently, enroll students more likely to graduate, and offer higher quality experiences.
Overall, AI’s main benefit appears to be of a time-saving nature. By utilizing AI to perform time-intensive tasks and make problem-solving more efficient, administrative staff can re-focus their efforts on improving student experiences at their schools.
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